Tackle fall main­te­nance

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

Fall is here, and this means tem­per­a­tures and tree leaves are fall­ing. Start plan­ning your fall main­te­nance tasks now. You’ll save time and ef­fort by do­ing them ahead of sched­ule. You also might get a bet­ter rate and sched­ul­ing if you call in pro­fes­sion­als be­fore their busy sea­son re­ally gets un­der­way. Foun­da­tion cracks can lead to mois­ture prob­lems and more sig­nif­i­cant struc­tural dam­age. Walk around your home’s ex­te­rior and look for cracks, usu­ally formed in a stair-step pat­tern. Foun­da­tion re­pairs can of­ten be done eas­ily and for lit­tle cost — if the prob­lem is ad­dressed early on. Left to linger, struc­tural re­pairs can be­come huge and ex­pen­sive projects.

Have your garage door in­spected be­fore the cold weather hits. An in­spec­tion should in­clude ad­just­ing of springs and ca­bles; lu­bri­cat­ing of mov­ing parts; tight­en­ing of all hard­ware, track and hinges; and in­spect­ing the safety sen­sors and opener gears.

Hire a gut­ter cleaner to pre­vent wa­ter from rain and snowmelt from rolling off your roof and pool­ing around the foun­da­tion. Leaves and de­bris can clog gut­ters, and the re­sult­ing snow and ice buildup can cause ma­jor roof dam­age.

If you own a deck, gazebo or other out­door wood struc­tures, take the time now to in­spect them, make needed re­pairs, and stain or re­seal as needed. Com­plet­ing deck main­te­nance now means the deck will be bet­ter pre­pared to weather win­ter tem­per­a­tures and pro­vide you with a head start to en­joy your deck again come spring. Clear away all de­bris and leaves to pre­vent mois­ture buildup. Wash away vis­i­ble dirt and grime with a gar­den hose or pres­sure washer. In­spect the phys­i­cal struc­ture for split or de­cay­ing doors, popped nails and loose screws. Check all rail­ings and ban­is­ters for sag­ging or wob­bling. Pro­fes­sion­als also rec­om­mend that you stain and re­seal your deck every two to five years. Change the air fil­ter in your fur­nace, which will im­prove air­flow, in­crease ef­fi­ciency and pro­long your unit’s life. Your fur­nace starts work­ing over­time when tem­per­a­tures plum­met, so make sure you’re get­ting the best per­for­mance by keep­ing the fil­ter up to date. Hire a pro­fes­sional to con­duct an in­spec­tion and tune-up. This ser­vice will prob­a­bly cost less than $100, and it keeps your sys­tem in top shape.

If you have a fire­place and chim­ney, get them in­spected and swept to avoid po­ten­tial fire haz­ards as a re­sult of cre­osote buildup.

Con­sider an en­ergy au­dit to de­ter­mine where cold air is en­ter­ing your home, and check your at­tic’s in­su­la­tion lev­els to max­i­mize the ef­fi­ciency of your heat­ing sys­tem. Even if you don’t hire an en­ergy au­di­tor, take steps to weather-proof your doors and win­dows. Caulk and seal any place where drafts are get­ting into your home. Seal­ing up those drafty ar­eas is one of the cheap­est and eas­i­est ways to save on heat­ing costs. If your win­dows are drafty, it’s a great time to buy new, en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient mod­els that will help lower your en­ergy costs.

Drain and flush your wa­ter heater and in­su­late your wa­ter lines to pre­vent freez­ing. If you don’t al­ready know where your main wa­ter and gas shut­off switches are lo­cated, find out now. This in­for­ma­tion will be very use­ful in the event of leaks.

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